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tv   Book TV After Words  CSPAN  October 29, 2012 12:00am-1:00am EDT

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of the wilson center cold war international history project. this week david coleman and his latest book the 14th day jfk and the aftermath of the cuban missile crisis. in a director of the mother center presidential recordings program distills the days following october 28, 1962 and shows that both the public believed the cuban missile crisis that ended president kennedy continued to walk a fine diplomatic line to secure the removal of the nuclear weaponry from cuba. >> host: as you know there's a ton of literature about the cuban missile crisis most of it focusing on 13 days has bobby kennedy's memoir was called in
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1969 in the version with kevin costner. what made you decide to focus on the aftermath in this crisis? >> guest: there's two things a lot to talk about in the tracks the end of dovetailing in the end. first of all most of the books that cover the missile crisis and on the 13th day and october 28, the had decided he was going to back down and he had agreed to have a message to withdraw the message from cuba. the question was now what, what happened. interestingly in this is back to what usually happens we know what happens in the weeks and months after that in the cuban sources than we do from the american side because there simply hasn't been a lot of study on the american side about what happened. i would happen to be lucky enough with working with the kennedy tapes during that period so i had a remarkable window. one thing is i wanted to sort of extend the story of the missile crisis to find out what happened
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on the 13th day when he capitulated. there were tens of thousands of soviet troops into queue by and there were tactical nuclear weapons in cuba. >> host: which they didn't know about any great extent. >> guest: we will discuss that i'm sure a little bit later with the point being they would remove the missiles. so what happened was there was a deep skepticism among kennedy and some of his advisers that perhaps this was just a trip because the crisis was over and was going to get worse so that's one thing i wanted to sort of extend and sort of deep in the story in the missile crisis. the second thing is this is a remarkable program kennedy's presidency it is a pivot point for when he can turn his presidency around. if you do any polls since world war ii, kennedy ranks head and shoulder number one and one of the primary reasons is his handling of the cuban missile
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crisis so i want to look at this pogo on the presidency that wasn't going as well was he hoped and was able to turn things around and establish a legacy of until the beginning of 63. now these two things dovetail because what we understand about the cuban missile crisis this was a great kennedy victory, this was a proud moment for american history i would argue it isn't inevitable if you go back into november, december, january, 1963, it was still touch and go whether or not this was going to go down as a kennedy victory or failure because candies political opponents were trying to paint it as a failure. so i think this battle that is going on to shape his presidency and his legacy is going on at the same time but also informed how we understand the missile crisis today. >> host: one of the ironies it is backwards, so looking
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backwards of course this would all be under the shadow of kennedy's assassination a year later and i remember one of the first books of the missile crisis across the crisis was his finest hour this was a triumph but as to he makes clear it is a very complicated and dicey situation when the crisis seemingly ended but there were a lot of issues on the table and your book first deals with this question of trust and inspection. ronald reagan would say trust but verify and the same day that he agreed to remove the missiles under the inspection fidel castro refused to allow the inspection of any missile dismantling and removal from cuba. so what were some of the complications that kennedy had to deal with beginning october 29th of this whole issue of inspection and of dealing with the soviet weapons and forces left over in cuba?
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>> guest: the context is important to remember october 18th 2 days after he'd been shown photographs of the soviet missiles in cuba. installing nuclear missiles in cuba and he said no. he had the biden for those so for kennedy this is instructive he's just been lied to directly by the missiles so fast forward almost two weeks you've got this issue were the soviet premier said we will remove the missiles. trust us we will do it and for the members it wasn't so much trust but verify the to verify first. there wasn't a lot of trust on this issue. he's on the tape talking got the soviet ambassador to the united states was now burned as a source because we can't believe him not because he was lobbying the there were concerns that haven't been told about this. there are concerns about listening to many of the soviet
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diplomats and then being sent back to life that is what they were doing. but they really have to follow through and get out to verify first. they talk about how this might impact the trippi which history has no parallel. so what they have to do is look at how they can do it and what that involves as american eyes seeing what's happening on the ground. the same weapons into cuba, fidel castro is not going to allow that. the next best thing is sending american surveillance planes over. that in itself is a complicated decision because it had been shot down on october 27th. fidel castro was still threatening to shoot down the plant and they were coming back with bullet holes in the aircraft fire.
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for kennedy this is a decision device and american pilots into harm's way. whether we send these over today. the verification of this program is about sending american planes over and that has its risks because what do you do if an american plane is shot down. there is a remarkable moment on the tapes that doesn't show up in any other documents. the day before the midterm election robert kennedy meeting in his office they're trying to work out the deals privately that an american surveillance plan the pentagon has just told them an american surveillance plan has been shot down over cuba. kennedy has the tape recording will and he gets on the phone and talks to bobby kennedy while
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he is still in the room and kennedy at this point is thinking okay the plan has been shot down now what do we do. do we do air strikes and the political pressure when this comes out so it is more or less a remarkable moment that you get to hear the president in real time struggling through okay now what do we do. dewey retaliate and said no plans over and bachelder fields or something like that that would redefine the crisis it was a false alarm they had to scramble to but they have shot down an american plane but you get to these windows and get a remarkable sense of what kennedy is facing and you get a sense of how close military action was in this period. >> host: kennedy was acutely fearful of escalation of how future generations would look if
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the had lost control of the situation as it happened in 1941 with nuclear weapons and the 27th to shoot down the offending missile site and kennedy refused to authorize it because they were afraid of escalation. in a very interesting way it isn't a question of whether or not to send planes it's what kind of plans because the with a high level planes which are safer and less vulnerable to be shot down by the cubans they were sort of playing along. they were shooting their service to air missiles but to get good quality. it's worth explaining why they were under control in two different systems. the soviet surface air system was jury sophisticated and required six months of training for anyone to operate so during the crisis and after the operated by soviet personnel's,
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the standard they had two different leaders telling them essentially two different sets of instructions to consider the soviets much more reasonable in this and they trusted them not to shoot the airplane better than they would trust the cubans. that would bring a fascinating issue that has become a focus with some of the new research which is remember the october crisis 50 years ago this month. the crisis has shown there was a secret soviet crisis in november of 1962 which is by the title of the new book one of several for the anniversary about how fidel castro is serious to the american six suspect because one of the intense arguments that he's speaking for khrushchev had in the leadership is castro's insistence for the sake of the dignity is the word firing on
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the american reconnaissance planes whereas the soviets you are absolutely right were ready to play along with bringing the crisis to a resolution. to the american sex that how it was becoming in the two bids? >> guest: they didn't have to tell the information about what was happening in the discussion. the cubans are doing a job of hiding how unhappy they were with the soviets and so what you actually get. his advisers would get every day there would be updates about how with the latest an audience is with castro and khrushchev so they certainly have a sense of it even if they didn't know the ultimate details. >> host: did it help build any renewed trust and chris jeff that he can now be trusted to some extent and he had his own interest in resolving the crisis was this lingering sense of, you know, if he could pull a fast
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one on us and i should add it wasn't just u.s. officials in congress and american politics there were those on the right wing who were saying this is our chance to get rid of this regime how do we know they want light missiles in caves or something like that? so how did kanaby and view him once he had agreed to pull the missiles out? did he begin to change his view of him? >> guest: i think it took awhile. we were talking about verifying before trust. the trust came gradually again once the surveillance flights were showing the soviets were in fact falling through, they were dismantling of the started to realize yes the soviets were in particular perhaps we can tactfully trusten, and later on in the weeks after there were actually moments where the trust comes again because once we get
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through? the missile crisis is traditionally the november 20 deal. and that's the nature of the deal is essentially there are long range bombers in cuba there's three ways of negotiation the tortfeasor are these not something we have to get rid of and eventually crush of decides okay, fine, we will get rid of them and he tells the americans we will get rid of them that it is an issue of he said something that hasn't yet had an opportunity to follow for because what he actually says is yes we will get rid of them within 30 days to get so at that moment, kennedy does trust khrushchev again because he lists the quarantine with a process. in the weeks following wednesday believes the soviets are in fact fallen through and the soviets are kind of sort of for want of a better word the responsible parties in this because frankly they did not feel they were particularly responsible and particularly stable.
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so once they realized that khrushchev was the one in the end of trusting him on his promise to remove the aisle 28, which he did and on the promise to remove combat troops in due course and he didn't in the ends of the element of trust did build again. >> host: as we will discuss leader many have seen this as a moment when kennedy and khrushchev, the united states and soviet union move towards a better relationship either ending more moderating yet this was cut off by kennedy's assassination in october 1964 and after that. is what you're saying this isn't something that happened overnight when the crisis and then put it was a gradual process. not immediate this is a guy that i can do business with and we can start resolving the problems all over? >> guest: the trusten lament had taken a blow in the crisis.
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the americans and kennedy felt like to and i think justifiably. that's right it was a slow process by the summer of 1963, things have sort of taken a big step towards that and kennedy is again calling for the speech june 10th. he's talking about the peace that sounds very generic in the context of times it resonated very well and khrushchev said was the best speech since roosevelt. and you've got the signing of the test ban treaty comes and you kind of got this coming together trying to work through these difficult problems because of the shared experience. >> host: yet you mentioned the bombers and this brings up another aspect of what kennedy and his advisers had to wrestle with in the days immediately after his agreement to withdraw the missiles. he had left by saying we agree to withdraw the weapons that you describe as offensive and that meant that his advisers could
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try to negotiate for the soviets to withdraw more than the missiles and became a major point of contention. one thing that your book brings out to some extent is it's not entirely clear whether the preeminent consideration from the american standpoint was military security or whether domestic politics begin to enter into the consideration of kennedy and his advisers. how would you analyze that aspect of the issue of trying to resolve the crisis and what became a sticking point and the americans and the soviets but the soviets and cubans because castro at first was told they could stay and then had to be dealt another blow that the soviets were going to take them out to. >> guest: this came back to help president kennedy went about the business of being president and how he made decisions, that there was no york rule for any particular decision for him, there was no particular doctrine that he was
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confined to. so it wasn't just a matter of sort of deciding that one was one type of weapon that satisfied certain security requirements or violated them. ms. moore looking at the particular issue on the merits and i think that this has contrasting to different problems. there was a discussion going on. crenshaw said we will remove the missiles you describe as offensive. as of the ex-con, they are trying to work out what does offensive mean. what can we live with and we can't live within cuba and the american doctrine has different ideas of the offensive weapons are. they are trying to struggle through with the understanding is. the long-range bombers committee said that 750-mile range they could hit a lot of the southeast united states that they were also very old and they won't
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match the american offenses in the southeast united states. but the problem was, and let's backtrack, kennedy himself did not think that these were particularly big problems and actually comes through on the tapes as the one the was the least worried about the oil 28. he's actually on tape a few times saying this is like we don't want the deal to get hung up on this and i felt that they were unreasonable trying to get these out. so he isn't particularly insistent on getting these of but he has advisers who are consistent. robert mcnamara is one of the most vocal and he says we have to get these out even if they are not a military threat in the clinical sense. to the american public these are not going to be allowed to stay because we can't live with the american public will let them stay there.
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george bundy also argues for getting funding and kennedy is eventually persuaded that okay even if you are not looking at clinical sort of military assessments of what is and isn't a threat, we have to get rid of this. then you look at some of the other weapons systems because it wasn't just about the bombers and long-range missiles there was other equipment in cuba and the troops are the issue here. the americans thought there was something around seven or eight troops. the assessment varied through the crisis and started about 8,000 but the top realized it was about 17,000 troops so they never really understood how many. but on the 23rd of october, so the day after kennedy's speech, they started sending over low level surveillance plans and they started getting a much more detail about what was on the ground and to buy and they discovered that they were in fact in these combat troops which was the first time there
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was a big discovery. the had sophisticated personnel weapons, sophisticated canons they also had nuclear capable rockets. so, what they try to decide is in the weeks after the 13 days is our first priority is getting rid of the aisle 28 the then we also have to figure out the we want to insist on getting these other weapons and other troops? do we need to really go to the map to force him to pull fees' out and the decision there was actually quite different and it drags on it's a lower priority and one of the reasons it is a low priority is they don't look asad in the sense that these weapons cannot reach americans will. they are a threat to guantanamo and david who is the marine corps commandant of the line about these weapons can deal with guantanamo. >> host: and we hear about the
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naval base at guantanamo. >> guest: exactly right which is on the island of cuba of course they couldn't reach the united states itself so these were not considered as the merchant ret savitt actually happened is they dropped off the top tier and by the end of november he is saying he would probably removed when fees' and due course which is the phrase that he used a but he has no incentive to do that anymore and we don't have any leverage and the only leverage that we can offer is to formalize a no invasion guarantee but i don't really want to pay that price. that is too high a price. citizen chollet maybe we will just have to live with it. so what happened, the soviets of their own arguments for the cubans and that the deciding to pull out the tactical nuclear weapons. the americans didn't force that they also didn't force them to allow the combat troops all the
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kept raising it from 1963 kennedy is still talking about it in the weeks before his assassination that the in the that staying for at least a group of the men that staying and the surfaced about a decade and a half later when jimmy carter. it dates back to this decision that we are not going to make this a top priority for some things out of the troops will end. host kaput me ask you a question in assessing these weapons as offensive rather than defensive and even some of the forces, there were some who said to kennedy these could be a threat to the hemisphere this is cubans subversion which we felt the big fear was not so much cuba was a threat they could be spreading to others like brazil might become a second cuba. kennedy and his advisers, to
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leave the states that you said to the custody does it carefully in the aftermath and i should mention that of course david is going to be publishing and has been editing volumes and we will come back to this never accepted christian's congressional for deploying these weapons to deter the invasion and the bay of pigs but with american forces, not cuban so they always put the worst-case analysis. is that fair to say that never shifted even though some of them were aware of the covert american operations against castro? >> guest: let me get the first part of your question, too bad because that's interesting. there was an aspect that has come through. first of all timothy naftali has brought out -- we've been
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talking about the frogs and the loaners. >> host: the delivery vehicles. >> guest: short-range battlefield weapons with a nuclear warhead they had sent some 90 or so to cuba the original plan they had was to have some of these over to the cubans themselves who would have made cuba a nuclear power so when you are talking about kennedy's fear about subversion there was an aspect of this they did not understand that okay, perhaps cuba might in fact get nuclear weapons and this is only something that we have learned more recently so if castro is inclined to share sort of weapons or share resources with the fellow revolutionaries in latin america there was an aspect that hang on, maybe he actually came very close to having these types of weapons and things could have gotten out of control. america didn't notice. they thought the idea of the soviets' handling nuclear weapons was absolutely not
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possible. it was observed. he didn't think they would do that so he had no idea that was the plan. so that aspect of the subversion i think was actually much more dangerous than i think they even thought the time because they didn't realize the aspect of the cubans might in fact of tactical nuclear weapons. >> they also know some of them actually did have nuclear payloads they could have delivered. >> guest: but there are some military assumptions that go on. >> host: tell me if the interest of the stamp act that has come out in the research on the soviet tensions and november which is that in order to sort of rescue salvage the soviet cubin alliance willing that castro was furious with drawing the missiles the soviets were eager to reassure him that the commitment to saving to protecting cuba still existed there for the desperate to keep as much other than the nuclear weapons it turned out under the cuban control and to essentially leave a tripwire the americans
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couldn't simply invade cuba with impunity the would risk the soviet enrollment. did the soviets understand that this alliance was in jeopardy. >> guest: this comes at the previous question why did kristoff do this? even half a century later the historians are still arguing why. was to defend cuba. if you go back to the period in time and look at what kennedy was thinking, this was not really what he thought that khrushchev was up to. kennedy was looking at a much more global game. he did not think that khrushchev -- first of all, why would you send the long-range nuclear missiles, it didn't make a lot of sense in the time. they were trying to think through what was he doing this? the idea doesn't come up because
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he knows full well he isn't planning the invasion. there were other things but full invasion is not really probably what he is going to do. so he doesn't immediately jump to this defense of to the idea. what he does jump to is a much more global view and he looks halfway around the world to where he feels most vulnerable which is west berlin. and he thinks khrushchev has been trying to force the bill since 1958 and of course it dates back to the blockade and stalin tried to push the west out there and so this is a festering cold war flashpoint. kennedy feels very vulnerable as eisenhower and truman had, so kennedy thinks perhaps this is about west berlin, but perhaps he is trying to leverage something in some way to solve the problem. he wasn't without some evidence. he had been giving him some evidence this might in fact happen for the summer.
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khrushchev kept talking to the american visitors and west german visitors that visited moscow and he kept we are going to bring this up in november in the united nations after the midterm elections. kennedy had been reading about this so they are conditioned going into this crisis to believe that curse of is going to force the issue and that is the issue can be keeps coming back to cuba to if you ask what is crucial of up to come and kennedy himself is talking about this on the tapes, kennedy would say west berlin. he wouldn't say the defense of cuba, so they really don't come through a lot for the americans. they are not really thinking this through because it doesn't make sense to them. the way from an american perspective in 1962 cuba would do some treaty or to send lots
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of conventional weapons which is what they were doing as a part of this as well but not send long-range missiles that threaten the united states. >> host: it's funny if he had always send the tactical battlefield weapons i think kennedy would have had a harder time convincing the world that these were offensive weapons. >> guest: they were a threat to the united states. the flip side of that though is that kind of deterrent only works if you announce it, and of course what good does it do if you don't tell the world? so, at the point the crisis broke, everything about this was still secret. who knows what he would have done if he had announced a we had gone to the united nations and said look this is done we have a fait accompli, but the determines only works if the of the person knows about it, and at that point the americans hadn't been told of the missiles
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and hadn't been told about short-range with long-range and of course the other global aspect that kennedy and his advisers presume was behind his decision was the nuclear balance. a year before the u.s. had revealed that the u.s. actually had extreme superiority in the strategic striking power and was presumed this was a way to recruit that. let's move to another subject that you deal with very interestingly in the book. of course kennedy is concerned about the domestic political ramifications, and certainly the uniform joint chiefs of staff warned that if kennedy didn't act strongly he faced appeasement. the issue of managing public opinion is something that you bring out your interestingly not only during, because of course during the ex-con meeting before kennedy's speech there were efforts by kennedy to contact publishers to get them to hold off on revealing the aspect the
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news management in goal and the aftermath is something you go into more deeply pitted talk about that. >> guest: this respect to the summer of 62. kennedy is concern about leaks of security information turning up on the front page of "the new york times," national intelligence estimates which are high level of intelligence estimates that are fairly widely distributed with several hundred people but they are highly classified at the same time. presidents don't tend to like it when the estimates and that on the front page of "the new york times" and so, in the summer of 1962, kennedy is trying to crack down on the leaks and think of a way to get rid of and stop the leaks from happening. she entertains several ideas. the fbi is already investigating this. but he also brings a maker of fertilizers who are not very widely known and they called the president's intelligence advisory board. this is a group that doesn't have its own power. it's not like the cia or the
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defense intelligence agency. all they do as you can get from the name is advise the president to the president says -- has complete control over who is on the board. he asked the group to look into this and come up with a recommendation. they came back and said what you need to do is get the cia to do this. the fbi, they can try to do these investigations that they simply are not good at it because the agents don't have the security clearances in the beginning they are not skilled in the background issues and so what you need to do is get the cia to do this so with the recommended is having the cia spy on american journalists which mr. ackley against the national security act that forms the cia to operate externally not internally. kennedy authorizes this program that ends up being called project mockingbird and we still know very little about it because most of it is classified as one of the in the family jewels that released the national security archive and
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got the full say in 2006, 2007. so, this program in the summer of 1962 is when kennedy is starting to crack down drastically on the leaks. during the cuban missile crisis if you just a little bit, the white house had intense control over the information and was a moment of crisis. you don't want to broadcast what is happening to your enemies but after the missile crisis the administration continued to control the information. that has two effects. one of them is you have a very specific story coming out. you have control of the story, so if the press is clamoring you think that if you are in the place of a reporter or a journalist or editor at this point you have just had this massive close call with nuclear annihilation and you want to find out what happens so they were clamoring to the white house and pentagon and state department. kennedy said we are not going to
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open the thomas we are going to carefully control the information that gets our so that controls the story of this hitting the press but also unknown is the press because they don't want to be spoonfed information and consider itself as propaganda messengers so you end up with a massive backlash from reporters and drugs on for months and is part in particular by an assistant secretary of defense by the name of arthur sylvester and he became quite prominent through vietnam as well because he was the chief spokesman for the pentagon. you get him on record perhaps he was to have tired i don't know what he told them yes the government uses information in times of crisis which everyone knew us self-evident but no one actually wanted to say it so the pentagon the management of the
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kennedy administration and this is an enduring subject of interest in the foreign affairs. we need to take a quick break and we will comeback. >> you are talking about kennedy's news management and the relations with the press. one of the fascinating things about your book is it can surprise those looking back in the period lyndon johnson's paranoiacs and pingree views of the press during the escalation of the vietnam and the press turned against him and his relations with press secretaries that have to deal with it and you think of richard nixon and
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plummer isn't going after leaks and that led him down the slippery slope to watergate. has jfk gotten a free ride because he is remembered as being sort of buddy buddy with reporters and he had actually reported and his younger life and had good relations. >> guest: there is a general perception that kennedy's press coverage was performing in the was at the beginning. but, as you point out, kennedy knew this world very well. he had been a reporter and had a fascination with all the world worked not just tell the reporters to their job but the newspapers stephen business and everything he had a very close friends that were reporters and editors and fight it to the white house for dinner and things like that so he knew this world of very, very well that the beginning of his presidency, he did have close to press coverage quite frankly but it
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started to sour quite badly particularly again around the summer of 1962 when things were starting to get more difficult for him, and you start seeing some stories in the press around that time that the honeymoon is over ease in chile. this often happens with a new president. kennedy had come with an unknown quantity and as you should point out this is not only the press starting to sell, this is also being reflected in his polls of the time because when he came into office he had a very high poles but he also had a very high undecided so there were lots of people thought there. as his presidency continued, a lot of the people the started out without an opinion actually started forming more of a negative opinion. and so, he had started sort of souring on both the polls in the american public but also in the press so by the summer of 1962 the press relationship is getting more prickly, and this
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crisis, this cuban missile crisis ends up being sort of the spark for a much more confrontational relationship with the press because as we were talking about before, the press -- there is a massive press backlash about the policies and some of the things the white house was doing for instance is that before this moment there was basically an open season on any white house office to essentially talk to reporters. you go to lunch you can talk to the reporter, there wasn't a whole lot of oversight of what was happening. on option were 31st i believe it was, kennedy and the ex-con were complaining about another press release leepson he says this is it. i'm not like to go talk to the press and there's only a couple people here that are allowed to talk to the press about this so the white house press secretary does something fairly unusual. he goes immediately from that
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meeting and writes a memo saying you understand you will not be talking to the press and if you do you have to submit in writing who you spoke to and what you spoke about. this is the white house press secretary. he takes this and better than duplicating and circulating as you usually do, he walked around the office and got each person to sign this and so there is only one copy that has their signature saying they agree to do this and after that, each member of the white house staff if they spoke to a reporter he had to document the conversation was into it was about and when it was. so this has the effect of essentially telling the press will see. the pentagon was doing something similar making people more comfortable about who they talk to and the state department and the cia had been doing it for so this has to affect. was it is clamping down on the information and that sort of is
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good for the white house because they can control things better but it's not necessarily as good for the american public or the reporters. the odd thing about this though is it is in the very interesting thing for the historians because what you end up having is all of these memos about who was talking to reporters as if you try to work up resources that they were using in the stories you could go back to the memos and find out when they talked to them and who told them certain things and this is actually interesting in the week of the crisis there were a number of articles that came out to read some of them were sort of form about what happened and some of them are more critical and one of them the was critical not so much in the ex but with adamle stevenson was one written by joel. charles bartlett, the story of what happened charles bartlett was a close friend of kennedy and he had been responsible for
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introducing jack and jackie to read this article can of in one of the items is that adamle stevenson had been soft and there was an implication that he was willing to appease the soviets. this, adamle stevenson was one of the doves but it was an unfair accusation in the sense that he's not alone so this is kind of scoring heavily stevenson. the implication comes out that kennedy has authorized himself and he is the source of the bartlett and who charlie bartlett him and when he talked
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to them. you can actually -- the generally did. this was he was telling everyone this is coming directly from the president. they've got to do it for awhile and it did feet off a little bit, but in those initial days they were talking more about the memos so you can work out who charlie bartlett talked to and you get some interesting information that we haven't quite got the smoking gun but you can see it's coming from the military advisers in the white house and the kennedy himself told charlie about and then you end up with this compelling in useful source that you wouldn't have otherwise got in the that the time back to the stories, the press responded very negatively to this plant.
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so kennedy was certainly one of those precedents that could be the chief himself. this backlash that you dhaka and there were certainly some solid reporters that could be spoonfed and tidbits to the administration and the best there's the famous quote in the dean rusk. the cool calculating a poker player who had outplayed khrushchev despite the backlash you think kennedy was successful in creating the cliche and the first draft of history in terms of the public impression of how the crisis was handled? >> guest: there's two things going on. the press is responding negatively and the white house can control the message and so they didn't stop the message. kennedy knew better than to completely cut off the stories
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but with a disconsolate and siphon off the bits of information to the particular reporters and they really were trying to control the story. there is no question about that if you go back and do it that is part of the problem they were siphoning off to the reporters that they liked bits of information and getting bits of the story out to clamp down on anything negative. >> host: looking back retrospectively a lot of what they were doing is taking for granted but then there was the capacity to inspire outrage. >> guest: after watergate and after vietnam we are much more cynical about the white house press relations but this is 1962, 1963, it is much more naive. >> host: this press management campaign continued beyond the midterm congressional elections talk about the domestic political aspect of the missile crisis and its aftermath because in the context of the kennedy
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presidency this was a crucial moment if he was going to be able to improve his record, his legislative record. so tell me about how the domestic politics fit into kennedy's handling of the crisis and its aftermath. >> guest: he was shown the sites october 16th the presidency has been the going especially well and that was especially true at the issue. although he had a bump in the polls it wasn't a great moment in his presidency to say the least. so after the bay of pigs in 1962 the republicans identified huber as one of the witnesses of kennedy and then make this a campaign strategy. kennedy is on the defensive on cuba. this is not an issue he wants to
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talk about it he wants to talk about medicare and anything other than cuba because he is very weak on this and the implication they thought the democrats might lose more seats even though he himself was not on the ballot being in the midterm election. so, republicans had been aiming to use this. she was one of the most vocal leading the charge on the senate floor saying there are missiles going to cuba we have refuge ev ports and the administration is just negligent and the had been attacking them for months. so the issue had been sort of percolating for a long time and the hit comeuppance of timber and had to put out press statements saying we know about the buildup but so far it isn't a threat so it's fine. >> host: kennedy himself had attacked nixon. they were perfectly happy to
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savage him. a guest of the missile crisis breaks all not sure 22nd is suddenly becomes a public moment. but critics silence themselves. this is a moment to rally in of the flag. even kenneth says the have our full support. you know, we are not going to and this moment of crisis jeopardize the united states chance of victory but once he capitulates, the cease-fire breaks immediately because it is about nine, ten days after the election, and republicans start asking some very good questions about why didn't we find out about these earlier? was the kennedy administration negligent about sending surveillance flights over cuba or why are there these long gaps? why didn't we know about this is the mass of intelligence failure and some of them are going even further is the kennedy had ministration covering up here and did the kennedy administration even manufacture this surprise in order for the political game. if this sort of suddenly breaks
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when khrushchev breaks down and you have this intense period of political attacks coming in the lead up to the election that actually sort of dragged on to the middle of february, 1963, they dragged on for months because there are some very good questions here. it's still the good question why did in the u.s. find out about these earlier. >> host: for the audience this is being taped the middle of october 2012, very comparable to the accusations about obama and lydia and it is a perennial thing. when you can find any avenue of attack. >> guest: so, there is a very strong political attack coming from the right and the lead up to the midterm election and after that. and this is part of what kennedy is facing trying to control the message. any president is going to want good press. anyone wants good press. so part of it is just trying to get the good press but
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controlling the message is also trying not to let his critics define him. if we think that through what would have happened if the republicans had turned this into a failure if instead of us now remembering this as a victory as a great moment in the cold war battle but instead we talk about how this was another of the of pigs there isn't a moment he shouldn't have realized he isn't negligent in any of those aspects if you think about that, the implications of the time were enormous. he was having a hard time getting his legislation through to congress than anyone. if he was further weakened by this massive perceived failure, he would have had more difficulty from 1963 and especially the into the 1964 elections and he has an interest in trying to get the program passed by fending off those attacks.
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he wouldn't have had the political capital to do things like the american university speech and get some kind of detente happening in 1963. he might not have had the political capital to get the test ban treaty. so there are very practical reasons why he wanted to control the message and control the attacks that were going on during this period. >> host: i want to challenge you on one thing you write about in the book on the domestic and political angle which is you pretty much exculpate jfk from some of the charges that domestic politics influence on the crisis. yet, you know, it's clear that jfk had an interest not looking began providing openings he'd given in to the nuclear blackmail and he had appeased. do you believe the domestic political concerns or influencing his decision making and i will just give one common example the refusal to consider
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a public trade of the american jupiter missiles in turkey for the soviet missiles in cuba? some critics have said he just didn't want to risk looking weak and getting into the crisis in the first place is he concerned as robert mcnamara said on the morning of june 16th chapter on the tapes this isn't a military problem this is a domestic political problems of what is domestic politics contributing to jfk's decision making during and after the crisis? >> guest: the way i try to handle this in the book is the way you phrased it, did the domestic political consideration influence his policy? i would say absolutely. but i would form a distinction about partisan political considerations in the sense that this is trying to help his reelection and democrats try to attack republicans.
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you do not get to be president without thinking of the considerations and everything you do, not just making the decision this is part of you are and you have to think how this is going to be perceived in the broader american public. he is constantly thinking about that. how is this going to play out in the public? but the distinction there, and i would call that sort of political awareness and that is the constant part of who he is not just in the missile crisis that everything he does with its the it non-policy, civil rights, he's constantly thinking about how is this going to play out? but i would draw the distinction between that and partisan politics in a superficial sense. i argue in the book they do not believe that he was partisan and the super said delete a superficial sense we dhaka that there was a political decision and things like that and a lot of the time we mean that very superficially but in a deeper
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way i think that he was absolutely aware of the ramifications but he was very careful for instance to brief the white eisenhower who at the plant was one of the leading republican takers and he gave him special briefings during the crisis and called him up on the telephone. he was sending john mccallum, the cia director of the center of intelligence come he would send john, who was very tight in the republican politics at this point, she would send him to advise. whenever there were -- he was reading the congressional leaders a was a bipartisan. he wasn't getting the democratic leaders on the phones giving them privileged information so he was very careful to be bipartisan in his political. >> host: i have to say when the tape recordings on the discussions emerged, they suggested that jfk and the advisers were not so much fearful or not so fearful that if they accept a public trade that this would appear weak to
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the american domestic political audience is that they would appear weak to nato. that they get the trade and ally were sacrificed and allied's interest that the net result was the same the deal was kept secret even in the end. >> guest: that's right if you are in a moment of crisis like this trying to negotiate things like how to get out of the crisis to train missiles and things you want yourself to be in the strongest possible position. and you don't do that by volunteering information or volunteering things that are potentially going to invite a tax. it's just natural. it's how you govern essentially. but as i said, i would go back -- part of this, too is kennedy had a very close-knit group. there were people that went back in his political career and they were left wing anti-democratic politics but in particular in the cabinet he was surrounded
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himself with a remarkably centrist range of people. several republicans. john mccain, director of central intelligence, robert mcnamara who wasn't for the political but was a registered republican. douglas dillon, the secretary of the treasury, said he had made sure that a lot of his advisers were actually very centrist. he wasn't getting the left lanning partisan people around him. >> host: let me ask one last question about the tapes you've dedicated your life to the project university of public affairs. talk a little bit about the value of the tapes but also about the potential pitfalls because some of the hudson because the tapes are so wonderful that we could focus too much on them and there might be a danger to them.
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>> guest: we have been working on these tapes since 1998 we have a whole team of people, colleagues, students, scholars working on this comes a we are trying to work through this remarkable resource but they have to be used with care and i have tried to be careful about doing that in the book. it's tempting to write a book that is the list of transcript and there's a lot of use for historical reference in doing that as a part of our work. i want to in bed them in a different story so i used a lot of material that wasn't just the tapes, other archival research that goes into these and i've tried to sort of balance them out a little bit.
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the tapes themselves offer things you cannot get in other places. when traditionally historians have to rely on basically this period they rely on the two types of information. you get the written documents with the recollection in the form of oral history and things like that. the documents are great for some things and not so great for others because what can end up happening is they have to be written by someone so there is a filter right there. that person has considerations in their mind and that is altering it. there are histories in the memory we all know that memory is faulting. they can be missing remand remember things differently so the tapes themselves give us this remarkably and rehearsed and unscripted view of what was happening. so what i have tried to do is filtered those with these other resources. >> host: david, thank you very much. i urge everyone to read the book and later you can look at the context in those transcripts of the stick recordings as they come out over the next year. thank you very much. >> guest: thank you.
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>> that was "after words," book tv's signature program and which authors of the latest nonfiction books are interviewed by journalists, public policy makers, legislators and others familiar with their material. "after words" airs every weekend on book tv at 10 p.m. on saturday, 12 p.m. and 9 p.m. on sunday and 12 a.m. on monday. you can also watch "after words" longline. boe to booktv.org and click on "after words" in the book tv series and topics list on the upper right side of the page. more live coverage of the 17th annual texas book festival in austin. here is our lineup for today. ..
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